We're half way through our trip now. A light drizzle is falling here in Memphis & I'm actually cold for the first time this trip. Before this the weather has been everything it's cracked up to be in the South: hot & humid & conducive to constant drinking of iced tea & lemonade. The past few days I've had to reconceptualize how we do this trip. Of course a marathon is different from, say, 3 short races glued together end to end. We've had to slow way, way down. Much to my disappointment, I had to cut Arkansas out of the trip, despite the fact that I had a very nice handful of promising contacts there. (Helena is just on the other side of the river, so it really doesn't count as going into Arkansas.)

Then there is the enthusiasm factor: you can't just keep throwing Chinese restaurants at yourself, faster than you can catch them, & expect to keep liking it. Fortunately I've had lots of practice adapting to the twists & turns of my art practice, so instead of panicking about my apathy when it cropped up, or forcing myself to trudge through the motions, I decided to try revisiting the earliest inspiration for the project: that feeling of stumbling upon a Chinese restaurant when you least expect it, when you feel far away from anybody or anything Asian. For the last couple days we abandoned the database & the mapquesting (just as well since we were so hard put to get internet access), basically nixing the Find the Chinese Restaurant game in favor of just doing what seemed interesting in any given place, & if we came across a Chinese restaurant, then we'd do something about it. This strategy had some interesting results. First of all, even though I knew there were Chinese restaurants in both Clarksdale & Helena, we never even saw them, & I had to struggle against nagging feelings of guilt. But I was rewarded later with that China Garden in Tunica; we stopped the car in a parking lot across the highway & sat looking at the restaurant in the dark. Contemplation in this case was preferable to shooting or interviewing, although I did snap that one digital image you saw. I think the experience of seeing that restaurant will come back to me as I continue working on this project; the emotional recordings you take internally are always more vital than any photograph or sound you may capture with machines. There is something elusive, a certain feeling I'm trying to pin down with this work, & every once in a while a restaurant will turn up that syncs up with that mysterious thing & propels me further on the search. Also I realize there is something artificial & skewed about going from town to town, crossing Chinese restaurants off the list. The restaurants exist within a context that changes subtly (or not so subtly) from town to town, & you can't really understand anything without having a good look at all of it.

So here's another interesting thing that happened. The hardest sacrifice Donna had to make in order to go on this trip is that she hasn't been able to practice drums, which she'd been doing avidly for hours at a time when she was at home. Consequently whenever we're anywhere near a drum set you can practically see her whole body & soul yearning toward it. In New Orleans I actually witnessed her gently scooting a small child off a drum set in a music store so she could play. (We're talking about a woman who loves children & has always gone way out of her way to help them learn & experience new things.) Then yesterday we were at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, the epicenter of the Mississippi Delta Blues. They have a great exhibit about the migration of African Americans from the Delta to Chicago, & how the blues migrated & changed along with them. I was awed to be listening to interviews & music clips of the musicians here in the very place they had come from. After that we were browsing in the gift shop when I decided to step into the restroom. Just before I went in, we heard some music coming from the back of the building. While I was in the bathroom I could hear Donna's voice, muffled through the wall, obviously talking to the musicians, & I thought, I wonder if she's trying to get them to let her play! Sure enough, following the music around a couple of corners a few minutes later, I came into a practice room where, lo & behold, Donna was sitting behind the drum set, playing with what appeared to be a complete band of blues musicians. The only thing was, there was no other drummer in sight! When a pause came between songs, I leaned over & asked the bass player, who was nearest to me, "What'd she do, whack your drummer over the head?" He said, "Yeah, she clocked him & drug him off behind the building somewhere." They played several more songs & they were definitely good. I wondered, who are these guys? They might be somebody famous! Later on a young guy came in who was supposed to be the drummer. Good thing for Donna he was so late! It turned out to be a workshop led by Terry "Big T" Williams & yeah, he is famous. Dang! Go Donna! I don't think there's any chance now she'll regret coming on this trip, do you?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home